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East Side Planning Initiative (ESPI)

White-tailed deerThe East Side Round Table was commissioned by Manitoba Conservation to bring forward recommendations for a large area land use plan for the East Side of Lake Winnipeg. A final recommended plan was to be completed and submitted to the Conservation Minister by June 2004. (A status report was provided August 2004 and released November 2004.) According to its Terms of Reference, the Round Table was to advise the government on the establishment of land use zones within the East Side region based on the following fundamental principles:
  • Maintaining the ecological integrity and biological functions of the boreal forest within the planning area.
  • Respecting and advancing the social, economic, cultural and traditional needs of First Nations, Metis and other communities located within the planning area.
  • Recognizing, affirming and be in compliance with treaty obligations and Aboriginal rights.
The map below shows natural regions and watersheds for Manitoba's East Side.

The East Side Planning Initiative (ESPI) was divided into three phases:
  • Phase One: Preliminary discussions 2000 - 2002
  • Phase Two: Plan preparation and adoption 2002 - 2004
  • Phase Three: Ongoing - see ESPI Phase Three section below
Manitoba Wildlands assembled ESPI documents from spring and summer 2004, which were not made available to all participants in the ESPI. These and sets of recommendations plus technical analysis reports from environmental organizations are posted in the Manitoba Wildlands ESPI Documents subpage.
Manitoba East Side - Natural Regions
East Side Manitoba Map
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Visit the Manitoba Wildlands ESPI Documents subpage

ESPI Phase One

Phase One was completed 2002. Government information on Phase One includes draft reports, final reports, and terms of reference. In addition to these reports, environmental organizations submitted a response to the draft of the government's Phase One report.

Phase One concluded with the release of the Phase One Final Report and Executive Summary spring 2002. They can also be accessed on the Government of Manitoba web site. This report contains further responses from environmental organizations and communities.

Visit Government of Manitoba web site for Phase 1 of the ESPI

Environmental Organizations Respond to ESPI

downloadDownload East Side Planning Initiative – Draft Phase One Report – Comments from three Environmental Organizations (December 2001) (RTF 907KB)
downloadDownload Environmental Organizations' Essential Elements for a valid East Side Land Use Planning Process (December 2001) (RTF 29KB)

Manitoba environmental organizations (ENGOs) also submitted recommendations for the future functioning and activity of the ESPI.

downloadDownload the July 2004 ESPI Recommendations from Manitoba ENGOs (PDF)

ESPI Phase Two

East side of Manitoba After two-and-a-half years of meetings of the ESPI Round Table and its associated groups (March 2002 - August 2004), Phase Two of the ESPI was over without any actual planning in place. The Minister of Conservation announced receipt of a status report from the ESPI, (as opposed to the recommended land use plan as mandated) on November 16, 2004.

View the Manitoba Government November 16, 2004 ESPI press release

The original mandate and goals for the ESPI remain unfulfilled. The November 2004 report is a status report on activities to date and contains recommendations as to how to proceed with the ESPI. This report was to contain recommendations from the three regional Working Groups, and the Plan Coordination and Governance Group (created early 2004 - see Box re: East Side Planning Initiative Groups). The draft status report however, does not include all recommendations submitted by all Groups, and lacks transparency in terms of the process to arrive at the status report recommendations.

The compilation of recommendations of all ESPI Working Groups (June 2004) is not available in electronic format.

Visit the Manitoba Government ESPI web site to access the November 2004 ESPI Status Report (Executive Summary and Full Report)

View the government web site for the East Side Planning Initiative.
Public registry file #4718.00 contains documents that have been filed to date. For public registry locations go here.

ESPI Phase Three

Following public release of the East Side Planning Initiative (ESPI) Status Report by the Minister of Conservation in November 2004, the Government of Manitoba announced the next 'Phase' of the ESPI.

In a December 13, 2004 press release, the Minister of Conservation indicated the government had accepted the recommendation of the ESPI Status report to form the East Side First Nations Council (ESFNC).

View the Government of Manitoba December 13, 2004 press release

The December 13, 2004 press release indicates the 21-member ESFNC would work with the government on next steps (and is comprised of a representative from each of the 16 First Nations on the east side, a Métis representative and four representatives from industry and non-First Nations communities.)

Phase Three of the ESPI public information is inadequate. The membership of the ESFNC has not been formally or publicly announced. Few records, minutes of ESFNC meetings have been posted or filed in the public registry file (PR #4718.00) or on the Manitoba Government ESPI web site. Inquiries as to whether the terms of reference and goals for the ESPI apply to Phase Three operations have gone unanswered. The Government of Manitoba ESPI website contains some documentation of Phase Three activities. However, this web site and the Public Registry file for the ESPI (PR #4718.00) still do not contain the same materials; materials posted on the web site are not listed as being in the Public Registry and vice-versa.

In 2005 a community survey was undertaken regarding planning options.

A protocol that would guide the working relationship between east side First Nations and the Manitoba Government went through many versions (see Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) Protocol section below).

downloadDownload Manitoba Conservation Map of East Side Lake Winnipeg Broad Area Planning (PDF)
East Side Lake Winnipeg Broad Area PlanningMB Cons Map 2003?
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Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO)

The Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) is the continuation of the East Side Planning Initiative, which began in 2000 (first meeting took place in 2002) - see above. Following the release of the ESPI Status Report in November 2004 (see above), the East Side Round Table was dissolved and replaced by a version of the ESPI First Nation Council called the East Side First Nations Council (ESFNC) - see ESPI Phase Three above. The new ESFNC re-named the process to reflect the region's Aboriginal population and the ESPI became Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) - "East Side of the Lake Governance".

Visit the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) web site
View Government of Manitoba east side Maps

East Side Bill Passed

MB Coat of ArmsThe Manitoba government forced third reading of Bill 6, The East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas Bill, during public committee meetings late in the evening of June 8, 2009. Minister Struthers provided amendments to the Bill as the vote was called for third reading.

View June 4 & June 8, 2009 Manitoba Legislative Transcripts

Hearings to review the legislation and hear citizen presentations were also held the preceding Thursday June 4th. Speakers mostly objected to the Bill, due to the commitment to 'write the bill with the First Nation communities' made by Premier Doer during the 2007 Manitoba election campaign.

downloadDownload May 11, 2007 Manitoba NDP press release (DOC)

Moses Okimaw, spoke as an individual, and read the press release into the record, and provided examples of where the Bill does not uphold the April 2007 Accord signed between the Manitoba government and east side First Nations.

downloadDownload April 2007 Accord (PDF)

First Nation Chiefs from the east side spoke in opposition to the Bill. Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimakanak (MKO) tabled its member's correspondence with the Premier and the Minister. All remarks are contained in the Legislative transcript.

Manitoba Wildlands director Gaile Whelan Enns pointed out that the principles and intent of the 2007 Accord were absent from the Bill, and that it seemed no consultations with affected First Nations had taken place. She asked why cabinet secrecy was the basis for final decisions on traditional lands plans, under the Bill.

View Text of Bill 6, The East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas
downloadDownload Bill 6 Amendments from the Committee Stage (PDF)
View June 10, 2009 Winnipeg Free Press article
View June 12, 2009 Winnipeg Free Press article
Sources: Winnipeg Free Press, Government of Manitoba

View more Bill 6 documents and submissions:
downloadDownload June 5, 2009 MKO letter to Legislative House Leaders (PDF)
downloadDownload January 22, 2009 MKO letter to Minister Struthers (PDF)
downloadDownload June 8, 2009 God's Lake First Nation submission (PDF)
downloadDownload June 8, 2009 Island Lake First Nations submission (PDF)
downloadDownload June 8, 2009 WNO, Cree Group submission (PDF)
downloadDownload June 5, 2009 Norway House Cree Nation letter to Minister Struthers and Standing Committee (PDF)

East Side Tenure Maps

Tenure Map 1 - Basemap with Linear Features
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Tenure Map 2 - Crown Land Designations
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Tenure Map 3 - Forestry/Designations
Tenure map
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Tenure Map 4 -

Tenure map
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Keewatin Tribal Council Early Strategic Planning Project

In spring and summer 2005, the Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC) undertook a project, funded by the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, under the WNO, to carry out "early strategic planning". The objectives of the project were to:
  • build capacity for First Nation communities to participate in the WNO
  • survey community to elicit information as to their relationship with and priorities for their traditional lands
  • "realize a community vision and development strategy for each First Nation community that reflects their priorities by bringing together a broad cross-section of interests through community based consultations leading to strategic and action plans"
As part of the project, 16 community facilitators were hired. The community facilitators were responsible for completing community surveys and undertaking a variety of community outreach activities. The KTC's July 2005 interim report on the Early Strategic Planning project is available below. The final report was to be tabled in late summer 2005 - it is not currently available.

downloadDownload the Keewatin Tribal Council Early Strategic Planning Project Interim Report (PDF)

Manitoba Announces Support to East Side Planning

On August 16, 2006, the Manitoba government announced that it will provide $500,000 to support community driven land use plans on the east side of the province.

Sixteen east side First Nations will be able to apply to a newly-incorporated body, Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO), (formerly known as the East Side Planning Initiative (ESPI) First Nations Council) to carry out their land-use planning. If all sixteen east side First Nations applied for and received equal funding for land use planning from the WNO fund, each First Nation would receive just over $31,000.

As of March 2007, only Poplar River First Nation has publicly released a lands management plan. The planning process took place over several years and was based on over a decade of research projects. Before a broad area plan for the east side can be put in place, 15 other First Nations will undertake planning projects.

View and download Poplar River First Nation's Lands Management Plan

The need for First Nations' planning funds was first acknowledged in recommendations of the November 2004 ESPI report. The government also made the commitment to provide funds for traditional lands planning in the April 2006 Manitoba Budget, committing to:
  • Providing resources for the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin to support community planning along the east side of Lake Winnipeg
  • Providing additional resources for the First Nations-Manitoba-Ontario UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination
View the March 6, 2006 Government of Manitoba press release
View the August 16, 2006 Government of Manitoba press release

Despite spring 2006 budget commitments and summer 2006 announcement, as of March 2007, east side First Nations were not yet able to apply for these funds to undertake traditional lands planning.

A February 2007 announcement of funds to assist First Nations involved in the east side World Heritage Site (WHS) also does not include support for community lands plans that are essential for WHS evaluation and listing.

View the February 2, 2007 Government of Manitoba press release

Legal Comments - Resource Management Boards

Under the April 2007 Accord signed by the Province of Manitoba and each Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) First Nation, the parties agreed to explore negotiations to set up regional resource management boards (RRMB). The purpose of these boards is to ensure that First Nations communities are involved in decision making throughout the land use planning process.

Manitoba Wildlands commissioned independent legal counsel to prepare a memo to comment on the steps to establish an RRMB. The only other resource management boards in Manitoba were established prior to the enactment of Canada's Constitution. The significance of this is that with enactment of the Canadian Constitution, Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada were formally recognized and affirmed under Section 35. Manitoba's existing resource management boards were set up under the Northern Flood Agreement between Canada, Manitoba and five Manitoba First Nations, which was developed to address the impacts of hydro-electric development. Moses Okimaw is a respected lawyer and former Chief of the Manto Sipi First Nation (God's River).

downloadDownload the November 2007 memo regarding Regional Resource Management Boards (RRMB) under the WNO Accord by Moses Okimaw (DOC)

Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) Accord Signed

As part of the 'new' Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) (formerly the East Side Planning Initiative First Nations Council (ESPI)), an accord between east side First Nations Chiefs and the Government of Manitoba was finalized and released April 3, 2007.

View the April 3, 2007 Manitoba Government press release
downloadDownload the WNO Accord (PDF)
downloadDownload Manitoba Government backgrounder on the WNO Accord (PDF)

It is not clear how many east side First Nations Chiefs actually signed the accord.

The accord is "an agreement to a set of principles and guidelines the province and First Nations on the east side of Lake Winnipeg will work from", specifying that (among other things):
  • the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin accord will serve as a foundation to ensure the First Nations within the east side are involved in decisions that will affect their communities and traditional territories;
  • the parties will work together in a spirit of mutual recognition, respect and reconciliation to achieve the objectives and goals of the East Side Broad Area Land Use Planning Initiative; and
  • land-use planning and promotion of sustainable economic development that will benefit local communities will be the guiding principles of decision-making;
  • Each First Nation will undertake its own traditional use and occupancy studies for its lands plan.
Source: Government of Manitoba

Legal Review of WNO Accord

Manitoba Wildlands commissioned an independent legal review of the April 2007 accord by Moses Okimaw, a respected lawyer and former Chief of the Manto Sipi First Nation (God's River). This review follows his October 2006 review of a draft version of the WNO Protocol.

Observations contained in the April 2007 legal review:
  • clarity will be needed on every step in the 'new' relationship between the province and east side First Nations, as many elements in the accord have not been described
  • a test of the new relationship between the province and east side First Nations will be to see how aboriginal and treaty rights will be upheld, and how it will truly reflect the relationship envisioned in the treaties
  • the new relationship dictates that the drafting of the consultation process will be done jointly from the beginning
  • independence of the WNO and WNO secretariat is an important indication of the validity of the new relationship
downloadDownload the April 30, 2007 Review of the WNO Accord by lawyer Moses Okimaw (DOC)
Source: Manitoba Wildlands

Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) Draft Protocol

East side of Manitoba As part of the 'new' Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin (WNO) (formerly the East Side Planning Initiative First Nations Council (ESPI)), a protocol between east side First Nations and the Government of Manitoba is being negotiated.

The WNO draft protocol agreement, which would actually be a series of agreements - a separate agreement for each First Nation that opts to become a signatory to the protocol - is an agreement to work towards community based land use planning for each east side First Nation. The lands planning processes for communities will "describe "how" we intend to see our land and resources protected, managed and used for the benefit of present and future FNG's and their citizens. Land Use Planning will also provide the basis for appropriate economic development and for capacity building."

According to the draft protocol, its purpose is as follows:

The parties agree that the Protocol is being developed to respect the truth that the planning area is primarily intact in its natural state as a boreal forest, primarily as a result of the stewardship of the First Nations people who have protected this land for thousands of years...

The Protocol will serve as foundation for first Nations Governments within the east side to be involved in decisions that will affect their communities and traditional territories...

The draft language of the protocol also commits the Government of Manitoba to providing and/or seeking funding to implement the provisions of the protocol, which includes funding for the planning processes themselves. To date community planning has largely not started, despite meetings since March 2002.

downloadDownload the draft protocol agreement (Working Draft #7, July 2005) (DOC)
downloadDownload the draft protocol agreement (Working Draft #11, February 2006) (PDF)
downloadDownload the draft protocol agreement (Working Draft #16, April 2006) (PDF)
downloadDownload the draft protocol agreement (Working Draft #22, June 2006) (PDF)

View the Unanswered Questions - WNO Protocol page

Draft WNO Protocol - Legal Review

In October 2006, Manitoba Wildlands solicited an independent legal counsel to provide comments on the draft of the WNO Protocol (Draft #22).

This legal review memo, provided by respected lawyer and former Chief of the Manto Sipi First Nation (God's River), Moses Okimaw, notes among other things that,
  • The original purpose of the Protocol was to document the terms and conditions for First Nations' participation in ESPI, now WNO, whereas the current draft Protocol (Draft #22) proposes a planning process s. 5.1 rather than a protocol that documents understandings based on principles between the First Nations and government on First Nation participation in WNO
  • The provincial government did not properly consult with or obtain consent from the First Nations peoples living there prior to deciding to engage in a pilot project within their treaty lands, and it took until the third year of the ESPI, now WNO, for the Province and the Chiefs to be engaged in negotiating terms and conditions for participating in ESPI
  • There is no explicitly stated principle of consultation
  • Draft #22 of the Protocol delegates the Province's legal duty to consult to a third party
  • The principle of First Nation ownership of information is clearly described in the original Protocol whereas in Draft #22, ownership is not a principle and First Nations are obligated to share information with the province without any parameters
downloadDownload the October 25, 2006 Legal comments on the WNO Protocol (Draft #22) from Moses Okimaw (DOC)

WNO Principles For Engagement

Manitoba Wildlands has obtained a copy of the original text for the WNO principles for engagement with the Manitoba government, and planning for the east side of our province. It was written for the WNO Chiefs in 2003, with some aspects incorporated into the 2004 MOU between the WNO First Nations and Manitoba government.

Written by Moses Okimaw, who was on contract at the time with the East Side Planning Initiative, these original principles can be compared to the content in the 2007 WNO Accord.

downloadDownload the 2003 East Side Lake Winnipeg Broad Area Planning Initiative Memorandum of Understanding (PDF)

East Side Planning Initiative Groups

East Side Planning Initiative Documentation

Mallard ducksThe East Side Planning Initiative (ESPI) meetings started March 2002. In addition to the ESPI Round Table there are several other bodies (committees, working groups, etc.) associated with the ESPI (See box above). There is no single, publicly accessible location that houses all records and materials associated with the ESPI. Manitoba Wildlands has constructed a list of all meetings and documentation available, as listed in the public registry file. In some instances, such as the records of Interdepartmental Working Group meetings, no information is available. Records for First Nations Council meetings have been largely missing from the record.

Wherever possible, we have indicated whether documentation is accessible through the public registry. Please note gaps exist between the final meeting minutes and filing of documentation associated with a meeting. Records for 2004 meetings have not been filed in the public registry. Those documents available on the Manitoba Government ESPI site are indicated, with links provided. (The ESPI web site does not contain all records, has not been updated regularly, and is currently out of date, as of May 2005.)

Manitoba Wildlands monitors the ESPI public registry file and the ESPI (Government of Manitoba) web site to keep this information up to date. The information provided in the list of links below is current as of May 2005.

First Nations East Side MOU

Spider websA memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Province of Manitoba and some of the ESPI region First Nations was signed April 22, 2004. The MOU indicates that the First Nations and Manitoba will work together to develop a protocol that the parties will follow throughout the East Side planning process and any implementation of recommendations arising out of the final report. The protocol will be the foundation for consultation with First Nations about any involvement in decisions that will affect their communities and traditional territories. The MOU acknowledges the government to government relationship between First Nations and the Manitoba Government, and affirms treaty and Aboriginal rights.

Eight First Nations signed the MOU initially, and other First Nations communities signed later. These are separate community MOUs, potentially changeable without other communities being notified. The communities that chose not to sign cited a need for additional time to review the agreement or noted fundamental flaws to the East Side Planning Initiative process that made the MOU unacceptable. During September 2004, further east side First Nation signatures were secure on these community specific MOUs.

View the April 22, 2004 Manitoba Government Press Release
downloadDownload the Memorandum of Understanding (DOC)

East Side Planning Initiative Evaluation

Manitoba Wildlands has commissioned a review of the Manitoba East Side Planning Initiative process. Posted below is an evaluation of this process with respect to the Canadian National Round Table on the Environment publication, Building Consensus for a Sustainable Future: Guiding Principles.

downloadDownload Evaluation: ESLWPI And NRTEE (DOC)
downloadDownload 1993 NRTEE Building Consensus for a Sustainable Future: Guiding Principles

Manitoba Wildlands commissioned an analysis of the ESPI between 2002 and 2005. It is located on our ESPI documents page. We have also posted the document below for your convenience.

bulletDownload Lip Service or Substance? Did Manitoba's East Side Planning Initiative Promote Consensus Building &Public Participation (PDF)

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